Relevant more for the discourse it has created than the story it wishes to tell, The Matrix is now synonymous with red pills, simulation theory and computer hacking hijinks. That, at least, does not remove the entertainment quality found within this feature from Lily and Lana Wachowski. At its core a fine piece of energetic action with tense, underlying pieces of commentary on the tech-crazed world of the time. One of the many signs of a good story is its relevance and reliability in the modern-day, and with The Matrix, that does feel rather inclusive of its ideas and aims. Its intent is not to scare an audience, but to produce thought and interest in the world around them. That much, this film is successful with, but it does so with the calibre of a usual Hollywood action flick.
With action that is stunning, violent and exciting, The Matrix counters any narrative issues with innovative choreography. Its utilisation of special effects, that embrace of wall-running, slow-motion superiority, is just as necessary to the film as the performances of Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. Their supporting work is delightful and essential. Their work in the opening of the film sets up many different details of the universe, from its phone box teleportation to its white rabbit intrigue. To its credit, The Matrix knows how deep its themes go, and how to play with them well. Conformity and isolation are right at the core, with Neo (Keanu Reeves) deeply unsatisfied, but never questioning the world around him. Why question mediocrity?
Those questions need answering, not just for The Matrix, but in our own lives as well. None of that red pill nonsense, but just a general check of our satisfaction with the world around us. If we’re deeply unsatisfied, then what is the point? We do not, nor will we ever, have the chance that Neo has, mainly because this is not a simulation. Still, the Wachowski pairing is an exceptional, stalwart piece of their direction which blurs that line between entertainment and deeply expressed artistic intent. It is their ability to craft illusions and nightmarish visions in the early moments that make the later blow-out of action-packed thrills so rewarding. Aesthetics are the surprising glue that holds this all together though. Black outfits, cool sunglasses, and a tint of green inside a simulation are all The Matrix needs to make for an uncomfortable-yet-tense thrill ride.
Both Wachowski’s provide what feels like the final, fresh Hollywood film of the 20th century. The Matrix is so truly observant of the world around it, yet installs its own set of rudimentary rules and restrictions that are there to be broken. Some linger on the mind more than others, and while we cannot expect every moment to be unforgettable, we can expect quality. Dialogue is used as an explanation and nothing more. Every moment within has a connection to the story, but with that, there is no downtime or little extra details hinted at elsewhere. The Matrix is a wide and expansive piece of film, but at that time, it does nothing to coax out little details of their own accord. They must be explained to us, otherwise, there is no time for them.